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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

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Newsletter Article March 09, 2021

Strong Start to Finish Convening Encourages Courageous, Ambitious Action on Developmental Education Reforms

Members of the Strong Start to Finish Learning Network convened virtually in early March to share insights, progress and strategies for reforming developmental education in their postsecondary systems and institutions.

The convening brought together over 170 state and system leaders, technical assistance providers, researchers and scholars over three days in early March. Thought leaders such as Dr. Estela Bensimon challenged attendees to consider whether we are “centering the reform in the lives, and experiences and needs of racially minoritized students” and encouraged courageous and ambitious action. The event concluded with a fireside chat with Strong Start to Finish’s new director, Dr. Maxine Roberts, a highly accomplished researcher and equity expert.

Strong Start to Finish is an initiative of Education Commission of the States to support change at scale in policy and practice. Its aims include increasing the number of students who complete college-level math and English courses in their first year, and to have successful outcomes not differ across age, race, gender or income.

In practice, developmental education courses, often taken without credit, have presented unequal barriers to success for students who are historically underserved, particularly students of color. One of Ascendium’s four focus areas is to remove such structural barriers to learner success. Our goal is to make postsecondary education work better for learners from low-income backgrounds, particularly students of color and those who are first-generation, veterans, incarcerated or from rural communities.

Ascendium is supporting Strong Start in a unique pooled funding arrangement with partners Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, for a total of more than $13 million. The initiative is touching nearly 5 million undergraduates in 101 universities and 272 community colleges across 12 states.

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